Baum on Fire in Oz

Thursday 16 February 2023 South African Sarah Baum and Aussie Jordy Lawler kicked off their 2023 competitive season perfectly with wins at the 5,000 point Oakberry Tweed Coast Pro QS contest early today Oz time.

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TOP OF THE PILE: Sarah Baum emerged victorious from a field of 64 women. Photo WSL / Miers

The pair had to battle against a huge field of Australia and Oceana’s best up-and-coming surfers. The men's rounds was contested by 128 surfers, while the women comprised 64. Surf spot Cabarita Head turned on pristine conditions for Finals Day with waves in the 2-3' range.

The women’s Final saw a generational clash as veteran Baum came up against teenager Coco Cairns (AUS) in a thrilling matchup between two event standouts. Cairns came out of the gates strong, posting multiple scores early, only to be chased down by Baum, whose backhand surfing had impressed the judges all week. Baum took the lead with a two-wave total of 13.06 and then played defence for the remainder of the heat. Cairns found a couple of waves under priority, but in the end, the experience of South African-born Newcastle local Baum took the win, the biggest and most important of her career.

“I can’t even believe this; it hasn’t sunk in yet,” Baum said. “I felt like I was struggling out there and couldn’t find the waves I was hoping for, but in the end got a couple of hacks in, and it was obviously enough to get me over the line. This is definitely the biggest win of my career, and I’m stoked to get it done at the start of this run of events so I can surf with some comfort in the next few. It feels good to have all this hard work and commitment pay off, and I hope to keep it going now.”

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PERFECT SETUP: The takeoff at Cabarita Head reels into a hollow inside runner. Photo WSL / Miers

Although she was unable to take the win in the Final, Coco Cairns (AUS) was thankful for the experience she had today, finding her way to Finals Day at the QS level for the first time.

“This is the biggest result of my career, so I’m stoked,” Cairns said. “I don’t have plans to qualify for the Challenger Series just yet, and I’m not putting any pressure on myself, so I’m thrilled to have made it this far and get this experience.”

The men’s Final was a ding-dong battle between two of the most impressive surfers of the week, eventual winner Jordy Lawler (AUS) and Te Kehukehu Butler (NZL). The 30-minute matchup saw fireworks from the get-go, with the competitors trading set wave for set wave and significant scores coming from every ride.

There wasn’t much to separate the competitors until Lawler found a short left with a big ramp and took to the air, riding out of a super fast full-rotation air-reverse to post a 9.07 (out of a possible 10), the equal highest single ride of the entire event. In the end, Lawler’s two-wave total of 15.74 (out of a possible 20) was too much for Butler to chase down, leaving North Narabeen’s Lawler to take his first major victory since 2019.

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POWER SURF: Baum has an explosive style and is improving all the time. Photo WSL / Miers

“I don’t know what feels better right now, the points or the winning feeling,” Lawler said. “It’s been a few years since getting a win like that, so I just had to sit out there for a moment and take it all in. I forgot what this feeling was like, and I’ve got a lot of friends down here and my brother, so this feels really special. It was awesome to share the final with Kehu; he’s like a brother to me, so it was good to be out there with him. I’m keen to get on a bit of a roll over these next few events and get back onto the Challenger Series in 2023.”

Similarly to Cairns, men’s runner-up Te Kehukehu Butler (NZL) was proud of his efforts at Cabarita as the 3,900 points he earned today have rocketed him up the WSL Australia / Oceania regional rankings and closer to another season on the Challenger Series.

Competitors will now shift their focus to the Gold Coast Open QS 1,000, which will kick off tomorrow at the iconic Burleigh Heads and run until Sunday, February 19.

For more information or to watch the LIVE broadcast, head to or download the Free WSL App.